KW Contemporary Art presents 'Hunt Slonem: Midsummer Dreams' exhibit
KENNEBUNK, Maine — KW Contemporary Art presents the first solo exhibition of the work of Hunt Slonem. Slonem’s iconic Neo-Expressionist works capture the imagination and allow us to escape to new worlds. In Midsummer Dreams we explore these worlds and dreams they engender. Bucolic bayous, shimmering butterfly wings, and whimsical bunnies together create a world of beauty and opulence. Each lush brushstroke brings a new flight of fancy that asks us to ruminate on the world. Do we create our dreams or do our dreams create us?
Inspired by nature and his 60 pet birds, Hunt Slonem is renowned for his distinct neo-expressionist style. He is best known for his series of bunnies, butterflies and tropical birds, as well as his large-scale sculptures and restorations of forgotten historic homes. Slonem’s works can be found in the permanent collections of 250 museums around the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Whitney, the Miro Foundation and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
His flair and admiration for far-flung destinations has been a staple of his life since childhood. Slonem was born in 1951 in Kittery, Maine, and his father’s position as a Navy officer meant the family moved often during Hunt’s formative years, including extended stays in Hawaii, California and Connecticut. He would continue to seek out travel opportunities throughout his young-adult years, studying abroad in Nicaragua and Mexico; these eye-opening experiences imbued him with an appreciation for tropical landscapes that would influence his unique style.
Hunt Slonem tends to embrace the ephemeral beauty of nature, a characteristic that brings a nurturing, spiritual effect to his creations. Throughout his extensive career as a New York artist, Slonem has favored the subject of exotic birds, rabbits, and butterflies. Lately, his compositions have consisted of flat spaces with simple forms pushed to the front of the picture plane. The artist creates exotic forms with expressive and highly textural brushstrokes that are full of intense color, loosely inspired by artists of the German Expressionism movement such as Ernst Ludwig and Emil Nolde. Henry Geldzahler, a scholar of Hunt Slonem, notes that of contemporary artists, “he particularly admires the work of Malcolm Morely, Francesco Clemente and Roberto Juarez, all exoticists whose works convey a spiritual aura. Lest we leave the impression, belied by the paintings that Slonem is all depth and piety, we should note that there is a remarkable levity in his work, a lightness of being.”
Slonem has always had a strong connection to the subjects he represents in his work. As a child, Slonem first felt a connection to birds while living in Hawaii, which deepened further during his time in Central America where he was inspired by the people’s devotion and spiritual fervor. The fascination continued into adulthood; not only does he admire the colorful animals from afar, but he also collects the exotic birds, which reside with him in his New York studio. The lush studio is a sanctuary for the animals and the artist. His constant companions flitter and chat around him all day helping Slonem to capture his immediate surroundings with rhythm and style. The poet and art critic John Ashbery describes Slonem’s depiction of these ephemeral creatures as, “dazzling explosions of the variable life around us that need only to be looked at in order to spring into being.” Slonem creates beautiful, surprising scenes that offer a calming joy to those who encounter it.
The opening reception will be held on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 5 to 8 p.m. at 184 Port Road, Kennebunk, and is open to the public.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: KW Contemporary Art presents Hunt Slonem: Midsummer Dreams